Friday, February 13, 2015

the difficult part

I went to a yoga class Saturday, held in an art studio in our small town. Yoga is one of those things that I always intend to do, but never actually do. I’m a runner. I don’t do things like “relax” or “slow down.” I'm a cardio junkie. I live to make my heart beat as fast as possible.

I ran first on Saturday, however. We ran eight miles, grabbed coffee, and went to yoga. The familiar scent of eucalyptus and lavender in the air, I committed to an hour of pushing my body in a very different way. It was energizing, in a way that only slowing down for sixty minutes can be.

“This is the most difficult part of our session,” the instructor warned as the hour drew to a close.

Oh God, I thought. She’s going to make us do more planks.

“I want you to close your eyes,” she said in her smooth, calming tone. “Clear your mind and be still.”

The difficult part doesn't always look that way at first glance.  

There’s the difficult we know; the things we identify as obstacles from a mile away. The hills we run up and sail down every day of our lives. Arms pumping, lungs burning we charge up them with all the strength we can muster. They bring us back to earth each and every time. The hills test our will and they sometimes break our hearts—always leaving us gasping for air at the top.

But the difficult we don’t know is often the hardest. It’s the lying still on a yoga mat that smells like lavender, trying to clear your buzzing mind. Waiting patiently for the thing you want, only to end each day feeling like you only grazed it with the tips of your fingers.

I once read that in your life, lessons will be repeated until they’re learned. Over and over again, the same things will present themselves to you for a very specific reason. For me, it’s this: I am not in charge. I cannot control everything—or anything, depending on the scenario—and I need to let go and simply let life happen.

And sometimes, you need a yoga mat coated in a calming oil to quietly remind you of the lesson you can't quite learn. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

For Sale

Several weeks ago, we took a big risk: we agreed to buy a foreclosure. Our house wasn't even for sale at the time, but we went to look at a house that is best described as a 1970's era hot mess. Nearly everything needs to be replaced, starting with the carpet that’s currently soaked with a tremendous amount of dog urine. It’s structurally sound and well-built, but it is in desperate need of TLC. I’m so excited about this place that I often find it difficult to fall asleep at night because much like Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell I am so EXCITED and so SCARED.

We walked through it twice before agreeing to buy it. We wanted to be sure we weren't losing our minds. It was just as stinky, desperate, and filled with potential the second time. That’s how you know it’s good, right? We made an offer. It was accepted. And we stewed on the idea of (possibly) paying two mortgages. It was a terrifying thought.

We put our house up for sale on a Monday night and prayed it would sell by spring. It sold six days later to a couple that, from what I can tell, are the sweetest people on the planet. They included a personal letter with their offer. It began:

The moment we walked into your home, we fell in love.

Not only did these people write us a letter but they said the magic words: they are in LOVE with this place. I felt the same way when we walked inside seven years ago. In fact, we loved it so much that we paid full asking price and spent a tremendous amount of time and money making it our own.
I still love it today. But it’s time to let this sweet little cape cod and its surrounding cornfields go and start over somewhere else. We're moving from the country to the suburbs—they have sidewalks there! (Oh, how I've missed sidewalks.) More than anything, we are taking a calculated risk disguised as an incredibly exciting adventure.

I don’t have all the answers, but I believe one of the most important things you’ll ever do in this life is take chances. Big ones that terrify you and little ones that seem more frightening in your head than they ever are in reality. And you should find someone who listens to each of your crazy dreams and is willing to take chances with you.

Also, it helps if that person is skilled in home improvement projects because of all the foreclosure-y qualities associated with your latest adventure. (I have that one covered.)

So, stay tuned. There are a lot of fun projects on the horizon--and I'll be sharing them all right here.

Friday, January 9, 2015

I Guarantee It.

A few weeks ago, the warranty on my car expired. In the months leading up to that event, I received no less than five letters and brochures encouraging (threatening?) me to purchase an extended warranty. 
Most said things like this:


The same situation arises each time I buy an electronic device. The extended warranty plan is always encouraged—the threat of “what if it breaks?” looming as I politely decline. The smiling salesperson always leads me to believe that I can buy my way into security for a mere $70.

But nothing can be completely protected. Or for that matter, predicted. Really and truly, there are no guarantees. Most of the time, we have very little control over the direction of our lives.

Yet, we still dedicate ourselves to planning. Buying guarantees. Insuring our belongings. We purchase warranties on our phones and insurance for our homes.  Hell, we even insure our LIVES. Then, for good measure, we create backup plans and secure options to safeguard our possessions against damage. We sleep soundly knowing that when a ‘what if’ moment arrives, our safety nets are in place. It’s the act of investing in a guarantee that makes us feel secure.

Here’s what I believe: there is power in the terror of helplessness. The moments that exist in a place where insurance cannot reach. The times where you look into the eyes of someone you love and ask, “What do we do now?” after realizing that your plans, the ones you've had for most of your life, have caught fire and were swept away in a flood.

I am not in control. I never was. Even when I foolishly believed my life was my own, it wasn’t. And those insurance policies? They make me feel better about the unpredictability of this world. I tuck them under my pillow each night, silently praying they’ll carry me through another day.

But the nasty stuff that sails swiftly through the small holes in our network of safety nets always arrives without warning. It pounces on our hearts, the one place where insurance cannot be bought, and makes us wonder why we even had that stupid insurance in the first place.

Let’s be clear: yes, you should have insurance. There’s no need to be unreasonable here. But you should also seek out the guarantee-less moments in your life, too. Chase them, if you must. Find the places and opportunities that are so scary and thrilling that they make your heart race and cause you to lose sleep at night.

You don’t get many chances like that. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dreaming Big & Failing

Last weekend, I screamed until my throat was raw. Standing a half mile from the finish line of a marathon has that effect on a person. It’s a beautiful thing, witnessing thousands of people pushing themselves in that way—the culmination of an effort that can only be described as hard work.

Four weeks ago, I ran a marathon. I finished in my fastest time, but I did not accomplish my goal: to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In the aftermath, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sorry for/angry at myself. And I’ve rehashed just about every moment of the race in my overly analytical brain.

But watching my fellow runners, coupled with the passage of time, provides a dose of perspective.

Does it matter if we take a few swings before we achieve our goal?

It’s a funny thing, telling people about your dreams. It’s risky and it makes you feel vulnerable. It’s terrifying, really. Even when you put in the work required to do the thing you want to do, there’s no promise of success.

What if I look like a fool?
What if I fall on my face?

It’s like any other dream: Maybe you’ll get burned. Perhaps you’ll fail. But you try anyway. It’s such a powerful idea, being brave enough to simply TRY. Putting your heart on the line for something that feels impossible. For the maybe. Hanging on for the what if.

As it turns out, people are proud of you regardless. Even when you feel that you indeed looked like a fool and fell flat on your face. You tried. And there’s beauty in the try, even when you miss the mark.
Here’s the truth of the matter: I run because it makes me feel like I have control over what my body can do. I don’t have control over much. I cannot will myself to have a child. But running? That I can do. That I can push and dream and stretch until it feels like my lungs are on fire.

I have the power to change things when I run.

That’s what dreaming and pushing yourself just a bit further does: it makes you think you can control just this one thing, when you realize you simply cannot control anything. Life is chaos. And our lack of control makes this world such a beautifully broken place—and it provides many an opportunity to dream every one of your crazy dreams. Even the dreams that fail mean something.

Is finishing a marathon in my fastest time but not qualifying for the Boston Marathon a major tragedy? No, it is not. It barely registers on the tragedy scale, were someone to invent such a thing. It’s a reflection of a greater experience: a lesson in understanding that sometimes, you will work very hard for something and you won’t get what you want.

And that’s life. Trying and failing, over and over again until you get it right. Picking up the pieces as you go, one painful step at a time. And finding it in your heart to wait for the magic, whenever it happens.


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